Improving Your Chances of Getting an H-1B Visa

Helpful strategies and tips for securing an H-1B visa.

Are you a foreign national who wishes to work in the U.S.? Are you unsure of how to obtain work authorization in the U.S., or how you can find employment in the U.S.? 

This article provides guidance to foreign nationals who are interested in obtaining H-1B visas so that they may come and work for a U.S. employer. In this article, we explain how a foreign worker can be qualified for H-1B status, and also offer helpful strategies and tips for securing an H-1B visa. 

Am I Qualified for H-1B Status?

To qualify for H-1B status, you must have an offer of temporary work from a U.S. employer. The job must be in a “specialty occupation.” Once you have your job offer, your employer will start the application process for you (by filing an I-129 petition to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS looks to four criteria to determine whether a job qualifies as a specialty occupation. These are:

  • A bachelor’s or higher degree or its equivalent is normally the minimum entry requirement for the position.
  • The degree requirement for the job is common to the industry or the job is so complex or unique that it can be performed only by a person with a degree.
  • The employer normally requires a degree or its equivalent for the position.
  • The nature of the specific duties is so specialized and complex that the knowledge required to perform the duties is usually associated with the attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree.

In practice, USCIS will find that most occupations qualify as specialty occupations. If your job offer is in the medical, research, scientific, or engineering professions, it should be very easy to demonstrate that your job is a specialty occupation. If your job is in a different industry such as Information Technology (IT), restaurant/food service, or retail, you may have to provide substantial evidence to establish that your job qualifies as a specialty occupation. 

In addition to the specialty occupation requirement, you – the prospective H-1B employee – must demonstrate that you hold a bachelor’s degree or foreign equivalent. If you received your bachelor’s degree in the U.S., then you will likely have no problems fulfilling this requirement.

If you received your degree from a university abroad, then you may need to obtain what's called a credential evaluation. There are several companies that offer this service. The company will review your transcripts, your degree program, and what courses you took at your university. Using this information, it will make a determination as to whether your degree is equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s degree. The company will provide you with a detailed report that explains how your degree is equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s degree, which you can use as proof of your educational credentials.

You may not have a bachelor’s degree or any degree at all. If this applies to you, do not worry, you may still be eligible for an H-1B visa. U.S. immigration law allows you to substitute work experience in place of a bachelor’s degree to demonstrate that you are qualified for the job offered. As a general rule, USCIS views three years of work experience as equivalent to one year of degree coursework. So, you will likely need to demonstrate that you have 12 years of work experience if you do not have a U.S. bachelor’s degree or foreign equivalent.

How Can I Find a U.S. Employer?

As stated above, in order to qualify for H-1B status, you must have a temporary job offer from a U.S. employer. If you are in the U.S. already, you can contact employers in your field to discuss whether they have any positions open, and whether they will be willing to hire an H-1B worker.

U.S. immigration law requires that H-1B employers pay certain immigration fees, and some employers may not be willing to pay these fees. Additionally, H-1B employers have to comply with special labor regulations, and some employers may not want to subject their companies to additional regulations. Do not be discouraged if you contact a few employers and they are not willing to hire an H-1B worker. There are many U.S. companies and businesses that are willing to hire H-1B workers, so keep looking.

If you are not in the U.S., then your job search may be a bit more difficult but it is still certainly possible.  Contact U.S. employers in your field and explain your situation to them. Email your resume and ask if they have positions open and would be willing to conduct a phone or email interview. If you have any friends, relatives, or colleagues in the U.S., network with them to see if they know of any U.S. employers who would be willing to hire an H-1B worker.

What Type of Job Should I Be Looking For?

Ideally, when conducting your job search, you should be looking for a position that relates to your degree/coursework/previous work experience. USCIS may question your H-1B petition if your degree is in Computer Science and your job offer is that of a restaurant chef. In this situation, USCIS may feel that your prospective job is not actually a specialized occupation. To avoid this potential issue, it is best to find a job that is in your degree field.

Does Timing Matter?

Yes: Congress allots only 65,000 H-1B visas every fiscal year, which starts on October 1. Typically, USCIS receives more than 65,000 H-1B petitions every year, resulting in the H-1B cap being reached before everyone has had a chance to apply. 

If your H-1B petition is filed after the cap is reached, USCIS has no choice but to reject your petition and you cannot obtain an H-1B visa during that fiscal year. However, not every petition is subject to the H-1B cap. Depending on your own unique situation, you may not need to consider the H-1B cap at all.

Important Reminder

Keep in mind that H-1B status is temporary status; that is, being in H-1B status does not, by itself, lead to permanent residence (a green card). Additionally, due to complications arising from the limits on H-1B visas given out every year, the six-year maximum stay, and other immigration laws, it is highly recommended that you contact an immigration attorney specializing in these matters to discuss your own particular case and circumstances.

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